First held in 2005, La Grande Odyssée is well known to be one of the hardest dog sledding races in the world.
Not just pretty faces
Where recently designer dogs have become all the rage, with unusual breeds like the ridiculously cute ‘Pomsky’ hitting the spotlight, this race gives us the chance to get back to basics and really appreciate some of these breeds of sled dogs for the athletes they can be. Not only are they covering huge distances, harnessed and pulling a sled, but they are enduring temperatures down to -20 centigrade. So it’s fair to say they aren’t just fluffy pets!
In fact, in the same way that each sport has it hero’s – Mo Farrah, Jessica Ennis, Beth Tweddle to name a few – the names of some sled dogs echo through the ages and are worshipped by mushers all over the world.
So how hard is this race really?
Altogether, the mushers and their dog teams will cover over 670 km in 10 stages over 11 days – and with altitude changes of nearly 30,000m!
So let put those big numbers into context. If you skied every run on the map in the Paradiski area, you would still have only covered 425kms. And 30,000 metres? That’s the altitude that most planes fly at!
So, it’s hard! Each team of 14 dogs, will have completed years of specific training, eaten a strict diet and been carefully handled by the mushers to make sure they remain healthy and motivated – let alone competing to win! Training for La Grande Odysee will have started last July.
Then, before the race even starts – and again before each stage starts – all the teams are inspected by the team of vets. They vet team are on hand constantly and the dogs can be temporarily removed from the race if they deemed not fit to race.
In the Tarentaise for the first time in history
This year’s first stage was held on Sunday in Les Carroz and the last stage is on the 18th January at Bessans. However, excitingly this Friday 13th the race will be based in Plagne Montalbert.
The loop they will complete in Montalbert is 67kms in total with a 3140m altitude change – making it the stage with the biggest vertical challenge.
The mushers and their dogs will be setting off from the foot of the pistes in Montalbert at from 130pm this Friday and finishing in the same place from about 4.45pm, followed by the awards ceremony for the day’s stage. Along the race route, there are several places you can stop off to watch the teams go racing by. Or, if you’re looking for something more leisurely, find yourself a spot in the sun in one of Montalbert’s picturesque restaurants or bars, and follow the race via the GPS tracking on the official site. Enjoy some of the complimentary vin chaud or hot-chocolate on offer.
So, if you’re in the Paradiski this week and can get to Montalbert this Friday afternoon, come and join the thousands of spectators that watch this event every year. Or check out the official web site here for the other race locations this year. You can also keep up to date with the official FaceBook page @La Grande Odyssee and for the Montalbert stage, visit the @La Plagne FaceBook page
We’ll be there mixing with the teams and hopefully getting to meet some of the dogs. Keep an eye on the @EDGE Paradiski FaceBook page for live coverage and on the website for coverage and photos of the event.
Photos all courtesy of the official La Grande Odyssée website.